Couples & Marriage Counseling
Why Do Couples Struggle in Their Relationships?
Attachment to our partner is a powerful force that can be both destructive and healing. After the relationships with our parents, the bond with our partner is the second most important relationship in our lives. Humans have evolved as social creatures and we have survived and thrived as a species because of our ability to connect and bond with one another. Not very long ago, if a person becomes disconnected from or rejected by the tribe it meant certain death because we could not survive for long by ourselves. Now, when we feel disconnected from our partners, our brain sends panic signals that tells us we are in danger of dying. It is no wonder that when couples have conflicts, it can trigger intense emotions and past traumas as well as lock the couple into a negative pattern that feels out of control. The couple is, in many ways, fighting for their lives.
Couples may become caught in a familiar pattern of conflicts where one partner pursues and the other partner withdraws. At the core of the conflicts are deeper longings and needs to be understood, seen, supported, and loved. Beneath the anger, resentment, and silence, partners are asking each other: “Are you there for me?” “Can I trust you?” “Can you hold my pain?”
What Does Couples Counseling Look Like?
When you enter into couples therapy with me, I will first take time to understand the existing dynamics in your relationship. I will explore with you the familiar patterns that you feel stuck in. I will take the time to understand each partner’s family history, current stressors, and deep longings and needs. We will explore your emotions, both the surface emotions that are easy to express and the more vulnerable ones that may be hidden from view. From there, we will develop new ways for you to communicate, connect, and bond with each other.
Couples therapy with me is experiential, which means that we will learn new ways of connecting by practicing them and experiencing them in session. I use the Emotionally Focused Therapy approach to my couples work. To get the most value out of our work together, you can take responsibility for your part of the therapy process: fully commit to couples therapy by prioritizing your appointments and each other, be ready and motivated to make changes in your life, focus on changing yourself rather than your partner, take ownership of what you contribute to the relationship, value directness in feedback, take risks, try new things, and apply the new strategies to your relationship.
Progress in therapy is not as a linear path across time but a circular journey to health and healing. Progress in therapy is like a screw. In therapy, you may feel like we are going around and around on the same issues but each time we pass by them we are going deeper. Each couple’s struggles are unique, depending on their relationship dynamic, their past wounds, their current context, and their personalities. Therefore, the length of couples therapy can vary. You will know we are making progress in couples therapy when:
- You can see the pattern in your relationship from a perspective of empathy and compassion for yourself and your partner
- You can identify when you and your partner are getting into the same patterns and pause before it escalates
- You can express your more vulnerable emotions and longings with each other
- You can own your part of the dynamic
- You come to a different understanding and acceptance of your partner and yourself (e.g., who you are, why you do what you do, how you see the world, etc.)
- You find forgiveness for each other for past wounds
- You feel good about your marriage or relationship
- You can talk about and problem solve disagreements with a sense of safety, support, admiration, and love for each other
- You create a different story about your relationship that makes meaning of your past struggles and your future plans
How Will We Know Our Relationship Is Better and We Are Done with Couples Counseling?
Begin Couples & Marriage Counseling in My Ballard office
Relationships can be challenging; but if you and your partner are ready to put in the work, I can help. Through counseling, you and your partner can break free from the negative cycles, understand each other more deeply, re-establish a loving bond with each other, and bring joy back into your relationship. If what you've read here resonates and you live in the Seattle area, I encourage you to reach out and contact me today. We can schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation and begin exploring how couples & marriage counseling can help.